Painter Ignat Ignatov may be a new resident of Charleston, but he’s certainly no stranger to the city’s charms. Among a select few emerging and mid-career contemporary impressionists represented at LePrince Fine Art on King Street, he traveled to the city many times to explore and paint and, like many artists before him, eventually succumbed to Charleston’s allure. Earlier this year, Ignatov left the City of Angels for the Holy City, where he can often be found wandering its streets looking for the inspiration for his next painting.
Ignatov, a native-born Bulgarian, began his art career in Los Angeles while working for a toy company. “I sculpted the prototypes for toys related to the latest movies coming out, such as Lord of the Rings and Scooby Doo,” says Ignatov, who studied at the prestigious California Art Institute in Westlake Village, Associates of Art in Sherman Oaks and the American Animation Institute in North Hollywood. “At the same time, I continued to take evening classes to further study painting and sculpting. In 2005, I began teaching painting classes at the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art.”
Eventually, he quit his full-time job to focus on his passion. A self-described representational painter, Ignatov’s works float fluidly between impressionism and realism. “Some are loose and sketchy so they fall more into the impressionism category,” he explains. “Sometimes I get the painting much tighter. I tend to go with the flow … I go in the direction the subject points me in terms of interpretation.”
Ignatov continues: “I only use oil paints. I use a direct method of painting called alla prima, in which I’m painting wet-on-wet. The kind of edges and blending and mixing of paint I get is unique and very spontaneous in comparison to other methods, in which the artist allows the paint to dry, then adds another layer and another layer. I personally prefer the direct approach, where I’m mixing the paint as I go. To me, there are some really interesting edges that occur. Also the way the paints blend with each other, the different colors and values, appeals to me much more.”
In terms of Ignatov’s approach to painting, some of his work is plein air and others are done from photographs. “It’s often a collaboration of both,” he notes. “Alla prima painting lends itself to painting on location, when the artist is chasing the light and only has a limited time out, whether it’s on the street or in nature. While I’m painting and the sun is moving, I have to capture everything as quickly as possible.”
Ignatov’s most recent works have depended heavily on his use of a palette blade, which naturally gives his work much more texture. “The kind of blending and edges I get with a palette knife is so different from a brush,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll bring in the brush for certain purposes, but I’ve been enjoying using the palette blade, which is a perfect tool for the alla prima technique.”
From his massive body of work, it’s clear that Ignat Ignatov paints whatever inspires him on any given day. At least for now, the streets and architecture of Charleston provide the inspiration that will keep him working at his craft for years to come.
LePrince Fine Art, where Ignatov’s art is represented, doubles as a studio for owner and artist Kevin LePrince, who paints there six days a week and encourages guests to watch and ask questions about the process. The two galleries, one on either side of King Street, boast 3,600 square feet of open space, featuring high ceilings and hardwood floors. They have been designed to highlight the art, and a collector can relax and enjoy a painting from a distance.
Patra Taylor is a full-time freelance writer living in Mount Pleasant.